Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Can you believe she used to be a lawyer?

#4, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Ayelet Waldman

And now she's a talented writer.

How can you not be amused by a mystery that begins:
I probably wasn't the first woman who had ever opened the door to the Fed Ex man wearing nothing from the waist up except for a bra. Odds are I was not even the first to do it in a nursing bra. But I am willing to bet that no woman in a nursing bra had ever before greeted our apple-cheeked Fed Ex man with her flaps unsnapped and gaping wide-open. You could see that in his face.

I had thought about being embarrassed, but decided that since I'd been too tired to notice that I wasn't dressed, I was definitely too tired to care. "You have to air-dry them," I explained. "Or they can crack."

"That has to hurt," he said.
That's how Ayelet Waldman begins The Big Nap, one of her Mommy-Track mysteries. Not that I can identify. Okay, I lie. October 1999, Jehovah's Witnesses. That's all you need to know. But,I digress. That first paragraph is spunky and humorous and, at the very moment I read it, a breath of fresh air to the mystery genre.

I could write a lot about my Ayelet Waldman love, which starts with and always comes back to her role in a literary couple (you most likely know that she's married to writer Michael Chabon). But, I'll spare you the hagiography. I just devoured Waldman's hot-off-the-press, stand-alone novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. In three sittings, something I rarely, if ever, do since I am an excrutiatingly slow reader.

I'm not even going to attempt a plot synopsis, but I did find Waldman to be at the top of her form in creating a funny, sophisticated, compelling novel, populated by sufficiently complex characters and amusing/heartbreaking situations. It's hard not to empathize with hapless Emilia Greenleaf--who is attempting to navigate her life through the minefield of losing a child and learning to love a stepson--even when you want to smack her alongside the head. And, there's New York City, which is also hard not to love, even when you want to smack it alongside the head. Cabs, snarly traffic, Central Park, doormen, the Flatiron, throngs of people. Should I go on?

One last thing about Waldman: She has a blog where she maintains a book log, consisting mostly of short impressions of books she has recently read. I think she should update more frequently, and I think more readers should keep lists like this online.

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